By Alan Baldwin
SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton soaked up the energy from his legions of fans and responded to the pressure by producing a sensational lap for pole position at the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
The triple Formula One world champion, bidding for a third successive Silverstone victory and the fourth of his career, had his first quick lap of the final session deleted after he exceeded the track limits.
That left the Mercedes driver just one chance to haul himself out of 10th place and ahead of German team mate and title rival Nico Rosberg who was sitting on provisional pole position.
He might have cracked but instead set a lap that, while not his fastest of the afternoon, was sensational in the circumstances and unmatched by rivals.
"It was as much pressure as you can... imagine the most pressure you’re under and that’s it. It was a lot of pressure. But I quite liked it, for some reason," the Briton told reporters.
"I feel like I’ve been under pressure my whole life... more often than not I feel comfortable in that scenario."
Hamilton, who has spoken at length about his special rapport with the home crowd, said the enthusiasm of the fans had energised him on a cloudy day that threatened rain without actually delivering.
"I don't know why, just in those moments it's when I am the most excited," said the driver, who is 11 points adrift of championship leader Rosberg with 12 races remaining.
"Being under pressure is something not to be shied away from. It's something to attack full on and that's generally what I've tried to do."
Hamilton said he was thinking to himself "what happens if I lock up at turn one" as he drove down the pitlane but he banished the doubts.
The support of the crowd then lifted his spirits.
"Every single corner I see the crowd and they wave, there's nowhere (else) in the world that I can ever experience that and I wish that people could feel what I feel when I look and see the flags waving," he said.
"It's very reminiscent of when I was watching (1992 champion) Nigel Mansell (while) growing up. I appreciate it more than anything and it's why I did the lap."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)